Conveying Meaning in Design

For my design iterations poster project I looked into art and design that conveyed meanings through analogies. I found a number of different designs in which the artists/designers use a number of different methods. I feel that for my iterative process it is useful to discuss some concepts that I think these designs use.

I recently discovered an artist named Pawal Kuczynski whose works are particularly interesting because they convey current political or societal discourse and philosophical ideas through art in a way that makes the audience think about the idea through metaphor or semiotics.


The drawing above depicts a man in front of a wall. There is a ladder to get over the wall in which some of the steps have been used to make a fire. This suggests that instead of climbing over the ladder to the other side the man is using up the resources he has to temporarily keep himself warm, where as he could use the ladder to climb over the wall. This is quite ambiguous as you don’t actually know what is over the wall (this could represent taking a chance) though it is brighter on the other side of the wall where as he is in darkness which suggests that whatever is on the other side of the wall is better than the side he is currently on (remaining in the dark).

The “other side of the wall” could represent enlightenment (the light) or knowledge or simply a better world to live in. The wall is also a well known symbol for confinement and isolation which has been used in art such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall (as I discussed previously in a blog post from the first year). The ladder could represent resources being wasted or a decision or a chance to overcome challenges (societal or personal). To me it suggests that the man is wasting the chance he has been given to get past obstacles that are in the way which are within his power to overcome; but out of ignorance or greed he has opted for the less rational decision. The man could either be personification of government or society or could even represent the self.

Because of the ambiguity there are a number of different ways that the text can be depicted. This can sometimes be useful because it means that people will apply the text to something which is personal to them and give it their own meaning, it might not be the same meaning as the designer had intended but it could mean that more people can relate to the design because they interpret it in their own way which applies to their individuality. To me this is more artistic (subjective) because it allows the audience to make up their own decision as to what the meaning is, as opposed to functional (objective) design which is supposed to only have one intended outcome, and any other interpretations are considered a “negative response”. Both are useful in different ways.


Not all of Kuczynski’s designs are as ambiguous as the first one described. For example this one (above) has a clearer meaning. The fishing wire and hook are a metaphor for addiction (“getting hooked”). The text suggests that the person is getting reeled in to the “bottom of the bottle” – an expression which is used for alcoholism when somebody is at a low point of their addiction (“You can’t find happiness at the bottom of a bottle”). I think that this design doesn’t necessarily have to apply to just alcohol addiction as it personally made me think about all addiction but when compared to the other drawing the meaning is much clearer.


Here is another work by Kuczynski which is less ambiguous and more direct. It depicts the United States Capitol building and Washington Monument – two very famous American buildings. The Washington Monument is the nose of Pinocchio, a fictional character most famously known from the Disney Film Pinocchio. This suggest that “America was built on a lie” – a radical, anarchistic view on the history of America. The use of the Washington Capital building is symbolism for the Government (and I would argue capitalism). The “Pinocchio” puppet suggests that the lie has been buried and forgotten.


This is another work by Kuczynski which shows a man looking out at the world from a prison through the Facebook logo. This suggests that Social Media has entrapped society and they’re now looking out at the world through social media instead of experiencing it in person. This deals with modern discourse on new media and how we react with media, and what affect it has on society. The Facebook logo is a periscope and contains both symbolism and metaphor. It can also be related to spying, as periscopes are used on submarines to see without being seen. The door suggests that we have a choice to go out into the world if we want but we’d rather stay in our ‘prisons’ and view the world from afar. The meanings are quite ambiguous but also the use of the Facebook logo makes it clear that the artist is describing social media and the prison applies negative connotation to the concept of social media.

Another artist’s work that I have looked at is Banksy’s. Banksy is a street artist whose art is quite similar to that of Kuczynski. The main difference between the two is that Banksy relies on physical space more (or at least in a different way). Where as Kuczynski’s canvas is paper (or whatever he uses to draw his art on), Banksy’s canvas is the landscape itself. This relates to the Independent Dorset project because when we showcase the posters in Weymouth house we have to take into consideration the space around us. Banksy is also a good example for the posters because it could be argued that he uses unconventional methods when creating his design/art.


This image of a boy manufacturing British flags is a good example of this because it doesn’t just use stencils and spray paint to convey the message but also uses objects (in this case the flags) as part of the design. This is interesting because it makes the artwork come to life as it’s no longer just a 2d image and instead of recreating the object the actual object is being used. This is effective because if the flags were also spray painted they wouldn’t have as much meaning. Because the audience might associate flags with patriotism and flags are often hung up on walls during certain events (such as Royal anniversaries etc) the audience can associate this with actual events which they have experienced so if the flags were spray painted it would be harder to make that connection. The downside to this however is it can lose its meaning easily, as if someone were to tear the flags down then the meaning would be lost, so it is more temporary (except when considering that the use of the internet brings more permanence).


An example of using both semiotics and analogies in political campaigns is shown in this UKIP poster. The poster shows a British flag being burnt with the EU flag behind it, suggesting that the EU is destroying Britain, or “tearing a hole through” Britain. In this example the flags are used as the symbols. This allows the audience to associate the symbols with Britain and the EU quickly because they are ubiquitous (this is similar to the use of the flag in the Banksy example except it is being used here in a positive way as opposed to the Banksy example which creates negative connotation). The fire and the hole in the flag is a metaphor for destruction. Some text is added just to confirm what the imagery suggests and to provide some information once the images have grabbed the attention of the audience.

I think these designs are related to the poster project we are currently doing because they use semiotics to put images into people heads, this is important because in order for the posters to be efficient in their intent they need to be able to communicate ideas quickly, using semiotics and analogies is a better method for this than words because it requires less effort in a shorter timescale to get the intended message across to the audience. Using text is useful to get more information across but images capture attention quicker and are more affective at making connections between ideas. They are related to media because they communicate ideas through images.


Kuczynski, P., Website of Pawel Kuczynski. Available from:  [Accessed 24 October 2014].

Banksy, Banksy’s website. Available from: [Accessed 24 October 2014].


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